When we learned that Constellation Brands, a large corporate wine company, had purchased Franciscan Estate Winery we were concerned that Franciscan would loose its identity and stop making its distinctive wines.
The fact is that Franciscan has only benefited from the corporate acquisition. We learned this by visiting the winery and interviewing key people there. These folks assured us that Franciscan, which was now backed by deep pocket corporate financial muscle, was now freer than before the purchase to develop quality wines.
While at the winery we had the unique opportunity to taste some of Franciscan Estate Winery’s best wines along with food, as the winery had just hired a new chief to carefully craft food that would highlight the wines served.
We talked with Franciscan Estate Sous Chef Boris Olvera who said he cooks in a different manner than most chefs: he considers first and foremost the wine and how to make it shine.
We started with the 2008 Franciscan Cuvee Sauvage. This wine gets its name because naturally occurring yeast is allowed to ferment the wine. In other words the winemaker said Franciscan puts wine in the vats to ferment, does not add external yeast, and the natural yeast on the grapes skins starts the fermentation process.
Indeed 2011 Franciscan Cuvee Sauvage was an artfully balanced Sav Blanc with a medium-full mouth feel, good fruit and acid, citrus notes, and a long finish, while still maintaining a brisk center.
We enjoyed this wine with Chef Olvera’s creation of
Organic Quail Egg “Toad in the Hole” Salad - Champagne Dressing.
The dish’s richness from the quail egg along with the acidity of the salad and dressing were delicious with the 2011 Franciscan Cuvee Sauvage, particularly with the crispy bread in which the eggs were served.
The Chef told us he was going to serve us Magnificat, Franciscan’s Bordeaux-style merit age. We learned that Franciscan named “Magnificat” after Bach’s musical work, “The Magnificat,” which weaves different elements together and did so in a harmoniously way.
Indeed the 2008 Magnificat Napa Valley was big enough to give a large mouth feel, yet presented gentle rounded tannins and layered complexity with a medium to long finish.
The Chef found an excellent dish, which we enjoyed with this wine.
Prime New York Steak – Yukon Gold Potatoes Hash, Cippolini Sauce
What made this dish especially complementary with the wine was the fact that the Chef made the steak’s sauce from reduced Franciscan Cab. The beef was mild and tender, due to 60 days dry aging. Those same rounded characteristics were echoed in the wine and made the dining and wine experience experience especially pleasurable.
So again we were reassured by our positive wine and culinary experience that Franciscan Estate Winery only benefited form Constellation’s corporate take over.